Men Have More Memory Problems than Women
If you want to remember where you parked the car or put your keys, ask a woman. Researchers from the Mayo Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center report that elderly men have more momentary memory problems—typical of mild cognitive impairment—than elderly women.
Mild Cognitive Impairment
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition in which individuals have difficulties with memory, language, and other mental functions severe enough that other people notice and it can be measured on certain tests, but not serious enough to disrupt daily life. While there are several types of mild cognitive impairment, the one that has been studied the most is called amnestic MCI.
People who have MCI have an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease over the next few years, but not everyone goes on to have the disease. An estimated 15 percent of people with MCI progress to Alzheimer’s each year.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any treatments for MCI, although researchers have had some limited success reducing the risk of progressing from amnestic MCI to Alzheimer’s disease for about one year when patients take donepezil (Aricept).
The researchers conducted neurologic evaluations and neuropsychological testing with 1,969 men and women without dementia who were 70 to 89 years old on October 1, 2004. Among this group, 329 participants had mild cognitive impairment, for a prevalence of 16 percent. Among men, however, prevalence was 19 percent, compared with 14 percent among women. Memory problems were also more prevalent among participants who had never married and among those who had an APOE 3 or 4 genotype.
The higher prevalence of mild cognitive impairment among men may indicate that women make the transition from normal memory abilities directly to dementia at a later age but more abruptly. Dr. Ronald Petersen, one of the study’s authors, remarked that the findings were surprising because, as he told Reuters Health, “most people believe that women are at higher risk than men.”
Although this study indicates that elderly men have more memory problems than their female counterparts, MCI is a significant concern for all older adults. Despite the lack of effective treatments for preventing the decline from MCI to Alzheimer’s disease, Petersen recommended that older men and women stay as physically and socially active as possible while also following a healthy diet.
Petersen RC et al. Neurology 2010; 75:889-97